By Jon Meyer
The borough of Athens in Bradford County was especially hit hard in last week\’s flood, mainly because the community sits between both the Chemung and Susquehanna rivers.
Home after home has first floor flood damage.
The Main Street business district in Athens, which was under six feet or more of water last week, was bustling with activity Thursday, but a far cry from what anyone would like to see there.
A quarter of the community was wrecked by the Susquehanna River. It crested nearly four feet higher than it ever has before.
â€œA lot of people around back in the â€˜72 flood, they said the damage from this flood was way worse,â€ said Scott Riley of Athens Emergency Management.
â€œWe\’ve been here for 30 years at the end of last month and there have been flood scares, but nothing like this,â€ said Diane Owens. An entire first floor of belongings sits outside her home. Inside they had nearly sven feet of water. It left a mess everywhere. â€œIt\’s heartbreaking, you know. Everything you worked for is gone.â€
On one street nearly every house is now condemned. FOundations are gone, sinkholes are everywhere.
Inspectors haven\’t arrived at Dave Johnston\’s house, but he fears the worst. â€œRight now it\’s a waiting game, see if insurance comes through. That\’s one good thing. I had flood insurance. A lot of people here, my neighbors here, some of them didn\’t,â€ Johnston said.
Athens Mayor George Whyte has to worry about his borough and his house. He\’s on the street filled with condemned homes too. He had a few feet of water on the first floor of his house.
â€œI\’m on hold with everything. I\’m not going to rip up the floor or put inelectrical service until I find out that this is livable,â€ Whyte said.
There are bright spots in the river town. Everywhere you look there is a cleanup underway and a lot of it is courtesy of the natural gas industry.
Numerous companies doing drilling work in Bradford County are now doing recovery work in Athens.
â€œThey were a big help, a big help. They came in and pumped my cellar out and took some of the appliances out for me. They did a good job, real good job,â€ said Johnston. He added gas workers hauled away all the other flooded debris from the front of his house too.
It\’s a big help considering he is still stunned by all the damage.
â€œIt\’s still unreal. I still have nightmares of this flood,â€ Johnston added.
Athens officials said with piles of debris all over town, there is no way the community would have enough equipment to haul it all away on their own. They said the gas industry is a huge help.
â€œWe didn\’t have to contact any of them. They just showed up and said, â€˜What can we do, how can we help?\’ It\’s made life a little bit easier in a tough situation,â€ Riley added.
Any help is appreciated by those who are determined to bounce back.
â€œI\’m sure every time it rains I\’m going to be scared to death, but hopefully in six months we\’ll be good to go,â€ Johnston said.
There is a team effort underway to help the community clean up but still, it\’s going to take a while.
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